Throughout its history St. Mary’s has changed to reflect the worship and social needs of its day, and in the present century we have continued that tradition. In fact, the period between 1883 and 2006 is one of the longest times in the church’s life without some major alteration. But also in keeping with tradition, we have re-used what was already there as much as possible. The current re-ordering has seen the Victorian pews removed from the south aisle to allow a ramp to be built for disabled access, and a space for children’s activities or social events. A kitchenette has been installed in the vestry, or former south aisle chapel. The use of the south aisle in this way connects us with the medieval Guild of St. John the Baptist: it is in this place that worship, concern for others and social activities still intermingle.
The other major development thus far has been the provision of toilet facilities in the base of the tower. This required the moving of the font to improve access, which gave us the opportunity to re-site it in a traditional place near the door, and near its pre-1883 position by the pillar. It was removed from the plinth which had been added in 1883, and that stone was used for the side of the ramp and the new step into the church which replaced one steep step with two shallower ones. A new ringing gallery was added in the tower, making better use of the space, and the panelling, much of it still the panels from the Jacobean pew, moved forward to give a useful shelf for displays.
The Victorian bookrest and two of the pew ends from the block of pews removed from the south aisle, together with the stone from the plinth on which the font stood, form the side of the ramp and a handrail for the step, and make an attractive entrance to the church.
As you complete your tour of the church, and move back into the porch, you will see our most modern stained glass in the porch windows, which were installed in 2000. The old windows, containing some Victorian glass by Yarrington, were destroyed in an isolated piece of vandalism, but this gave us the opportunity to commission new windows for the millennium. They are by Pippa Blackall, and depict Water and Fire, referring to Baptism and the Holy Spirit, and containing details of the natural world, current events and stories from the Bible. They are a delight, and a reminder that God can bring good out of evil.
The east (Fire) window of the porch, with its theme of ‘He shall baptise with the Holy Spirit and with Fire’, has references to the purifying nature of fire and the idea of sacrifice – note the inclusion of a bull towards the bottom of the window giving added dimension in a year dominated with foot-and-mouth disease. The story in the book of Daniel of the three young men in the burning fiery furnace is evident, with the ‘one like an Angel’ also present.